Our visit to täkō almost didn't happen. We didn't think that the restaurant would be completely reserved on a Saturday night prior to the restaurant even opening, but this buzzing downtown restaurant was nearly there anyway.
Luckily they had space, and we were given two options: seating at 5:30pm or 10:15pm with nothing in between. Not wanting to pass up on our chance to try out the restaurant everyone in Pittsburgh seems to be talking about, we jumped on the early seating and were so glad we did.
Prepare your taste buds Pittsburgh.
At täkō, You Must Order the täkō Taco
When it comes to eating out, we often find ourselves ordering a restaurant's namesake item because we know that a chef clearly has to be on to something when hailing something as a signature dish.
At täkō, the signature dish is a täkō taco, and this item is so good that you'll go home and have a dream about it that very night (not to mention saying täkō taco out loud over and over again for the fun of it- or maybe that is just me).
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For those who don't know, the word tako is not Spanish. It is actually Japanese, and means octopus- a theme you'll see come up time and time again at the restaurant.
The täkō taco features octopus that is first sous-vide and then briefly grilled to finish, giving it an incredible texture that melts in your mouth- almost like that of a scallop. Compared to other octopus tentacles that we've had (both in the USA and Japan) nothing has ever come close to this preparation style, and the differences are so striking that I know the next rubbery octopus I eat, no matter how good, will not stack up.
Going past our love for the octopus, the täkō taco features harissa chili pepper aioli, preserved lemons, mizuna (Japanese mustard greens), and pickled red onion toppings which make for an incredible balance of flavors that ensures we'll be ordering this taco every time we visit.
Beyond this taco sent from the heavens, our order of tacos al pastor, a favorite of ours in Mexico, did not live up to its international cousin but stood strongly on its own if you ignore the name. Throw in a side of the chef's recommended guacamole and you'll be more than happy with your meal (we highly recommend the crab, habanero, and mango iteration- it is divine!).
Tequila and Mezcal Lovers Rejoice!
If you consider yourself a connoisseur of tequila and mezcal, much like I do, then täkō's bar will not disappoint. My first impression upon entering their bar area was “oh, they have some nice tequilas and mezcal” and it took several minutes before I realized that their bar is not just stocked with a good selection of tequila and mezcal, their bar is made up entirely of tequila and mezcal.
Yes, every single bottle on the open shelves is a one of these Mexican spirits, and täkō goes as far as putting all other spirits, liqueurs, and mixers behind closed doors to remove them from your field of vision. If tequila or mezcal is what you want, tequila or mezcal is what you'll get at this restaurant's bar.
During our visit we tried two drinks, their Lychee and Pepper, which features mezcal with cointreau and lime, as well as their Oaxaca Old Fashioned, which includes reposado tequila, mezcal, agave, and bitters prepared like an Old Fashioned should be.
I wouldn't say that I was disappointed with the Oaxaca Old Fashioned. In fact, it was quite good and the smokey mezcal made the flavors seem like I was almost drinking a traditional Old Fashioned. The problem as such was that the flavors of the reposado tequila were masked by this, and if I had to choose, I'd probably rather just have the reposado by itself. After all, I drink tequila to enjoy the taste of tequila, but I suppose this was my own fault for ordering a drink called an Old Fashioned and expecting anything but that.
The Lychee and Pepper, on the other hand, was phenomenal and the smokey flavor of the mezcal worked well with the flavors of the lychee, orange, and lime without overpowering them like in the Old Fashioned.
Overall, täkō is an incredible addition to downtown Pittsburgh's food scene and is a spot worth of your visit. Just be sure to order the täkō taco, and thank us later.
täkō is located at 214 6th Street in downtown Pittsburgh. Advanced reservations are essential, especially on weekends.
For more downtown Pittsburgh restaurants, check out Butcher and the Rye, Or, the Whale, Union Standard, Condado Tacos, Bea Taco Town, or Pizzaiolo Primo! Or, for more reviews of Pittsburgh restaurants, click the previous link to be taken to our directory of every review on Discover the Burgh!